Let me just say this: I miss New England, especially the chowder! Local prices for ocean fish are sky-high: only to be expected in Michigan, but a problem for a frugal cook. Bottled clam juice just doesn’t have the flavor of a great fish-based stock. Let me tell you about pressure canning fish stock.
When my local fishmonger told me he was going to cut halibut filets, and would save the frames for me, I made a large batch of strong fish stock and canned it. As with all stocks, a pressure canner is required to safely put it up in jars.
I based my recipe on one in Jasper White’s book 50 Chowders: One-pot Meals—Clam, Corn & Beyond. It’s a classic, published in 2000, so you might be able to find it in your library. I’ve doubled his amounts: since I want to can the stock, why not make a larger batch?
I use this stock when I make fish chowder, of course. It makes for a quick supper when I have the stock in my cupboard.
Strong Fish Stock
- 4 Tbsp unsalted butter
- 4 medium onions (about 2 lbs)
- 8 stalks celery
- 8 medium carrots, peeled
- 4 bay leaves
- 12-16 sprigs fresh thyme
- ½ cup roughly chopped flat-leaf parsley
- 2 Tbsp black peppercorns
- 8 lbs fish bones, heads, and trimmings (from non-oily fish)
- ½ cup dry white wine
- kosher salt
- 4 quarts very hot water
- Prep the vegetables: thinly slice the onions, crosswise. Slice celery, and slice peeled carrots.
- Melt the butter in a large 12-16 quart stockpot. Add the onions, celery, carrots, bay leaves, thyme, parsley and peppercorns, and cook over moderate heat, stirring occasionally, until the vegetables soften without browning. This will take up to 10-15 minutes.
- Place the fish frames evenly on top of the vegetables. Pour in the wine, cover the pot tightly, and let the bones sweat 15-20 minutes, until they have turned completely white.
- Add the hot water, stir gently and bring to a simmer over high heat. Reduce the heat to low and simmer gently for 10 minutes. Remove from the heat, stir once and let stand for 15 minutes.
- Strain the stock through a fine sieve. Season lightly with salt. If you’re not going to can the stock immediately, cool and refrigerate. The stock will keep in the refrigerator up to 3 days, and may be frozen.
TO PRESSURE CAN THE FISH STOCK
- Preparation: start with clean, hot jars. Check your jars carefully for any nicks – don’t use any flawed jars for canning. They must be clean but need not be sterile. If you’ll be starting with hot broth, use hot jars and hot water in the canner to begin: remember to match the temperatures and you won’t lose jars to thermal shock. Have clean jar bands handy. Put clean lids in a bowl, and pour very hot water over them; hold until you're ready to use them.
- Fill the pressure canner to the proper level (usually marked on the inside.) I like to add about a tablespoon of white vinegar to this water, which keeps film from my jars once they’re canned. Heat the water, so that when the hot jars go in, the water is also hot.
- Heat the fish stock just to a boil. Ladle hot stock into hot jars, leaving one inch headspace. Wipe rims, center hot lids on jars, and apply the bands. Tighten the bands only fingertip-tight: they shouldn’t be cranked on too hard.
- jars at 10 pounds pressure for 30 minutes (pints) or 35 minutes (quarts) – you may need to make adjustments for altitude. Once the time has ended, let the canner stand to cool and return to zero pounds pressure on its own. When it may be opened, remove jars to a towel-lined counter, and let them stand for 24 hours, then check the lids for proper seal. The lids should not flex up and down when the center is pressed.
- Be sure to label the jars! I put up my fish stock in green jars, as seen in the photo above, besides labelling the lids. This way I am sure not to mistake them for any other kind of stock.